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Thursday’s papers: Finnish vaccine, a quiet Vappu, and the state's 44m euro inheritance jackpot

The race to find a vaccine against the novel coronavirus makes the headlines in Finland on Thursday.

Finland's traditional first of May mass gathering, vappu, will fall foul of the coronavirus restrictions this year Image: Laura Railamaa / Yle

Helsingin Sanomat leads with the news that two Finnish research projects are developing vaccines against the novel coronavirus (siirryt toiseen palveluun), with one claiming their product will be ready for testing on humans before midsummer.

“That is rocket-speed progress, considering that developing a vaccine takes on average ten years,” the paper notes.

Accelerating the process this much “requires a national conversation about the risks and benefits of vaccination,” the paper says, pointing out that some past vaccines have turned out to have serious side effects which only came to light after the formula was introduced to huge numbers of the public.

Nevertheless Helsinki University Professor Kalle Saksela, a virologist working on the faster of the two Finnish projects, says he expects to put himself forward as one of the volunteers to try out the vaccine in its first round of testing.

The Finnish vaccine attempts are not yet included on the World Health Organisation’s tally of 70 similar projects which are going on worldwide to try and develop protection against the deadly coronavirus.

Some of these initiatives have already begun testing, such as in Seattle in the US and Oxford in the UK, and the sheer volume of development attempts worldwide gives Professor Saksela optimism.

“There’s no reason to suspect that good quality vaccines aren’t on their way,” he tells the paper.

Coronavirus summer shutdown

Most of Thursday's papers devote space to the prime minister's announcement last night that gatherings of more than 500 people will continue to be banned until the end of July, meaning that many of the summer's usual festivals will now not take place at all. Iltalehti is among the papers listing the events that have fallen foul of the coronavirus epidemic (siirryt toiseen palveluun), with the traditional "Vappu" first of May celebrations in the top spot.

The upcoming festival is one of the rare times of the year when Finns take to the streets and parks in huge numbers, holding picnics and quite often helped along the way with large quantities of alcohol.

"This year it will have to be celebrated without big crowds," the paper says, quoting PM Sanna Marin's warning to revellers to take responsibility and not congregate this year.

But although most of the major festivals of the Finnish scene - including Ruisrock, the Savonlinna Opera Festival and Pori Jazz - will not take place this year, one organiser tells the paper that he's grateful that the government made its position clear this early. "The closer we get to the festival, the more expensive it is to cancel," Petri Varis, producer of Joensuu's Ilosaarirock, says.

Helsinki Pride, which was due to take place at the end of June, has not been cancelled but instead moved to 7-13 September, the paper notes, but adds that the summer is still uncertain for theme parks, such as Helsinki's Linnanmäki, visited by up to 20,000 people a day in normal summers and whose fate is yet to be decided by the regional administrative agency.

State's 44 million euro inheritance windfall

Although the government has said tax revenues are expected to fall by 4.7 billion euros this year due to the catastrophic economic impact of the coronavirus, Ilta-Sanomat reports that 2019 was at least a record year for unclaimed inheritances ending up in the state’s coffers (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

Every year the estates of around 250 people who die with no known relatives and no will are turned over instead to the nation. In the last decade this averaged 26.7 million euros a year, but the paper says that last year’s haul reached an all-time high of 44.2 million euros’ worth of unclaimed inheritance.

Among the bonanza is the 14 million euro estate of a woman who passed away owning a portfolio of 80 properties (siirryt toiseen palveluun) across Helsinki. Most of the assets she left behind have been transferred to Helsinki City Council, but 2.4 million euros’ worth of property went to a foundation for Swedish-speaking people with physical disabilities, which is an organisation the deceased, and her mother before her, actively supported, the paper says.

Marjukka Vallioniemi from the state treasury tells the paper that in over half of cases the unclaimed money is given to the municipality of the deceased. While the windfall is not put to any one use in particular, land that comes into the state’s control is often turned into a nature conservation area, Vallioniemi explains.

The estate can also be turned over to an especially close friend of the deceased or someone who has helped them in their lonely final years, Vallioniemi says, such as with shopping, cleaning and taking them to medical appointments.